Bladder cancer typically begins on cells from the lining of the bladder. At times, it also can grow in the lining of other organs in the urinary system, including the urethra, ureters, or kidneys.
Smoking and second-hand smoke exposure are the strongest risk factors for bladder cancer. Additionally, older age and exposure to toxic environmental chemicals or various chemotherapies are risk factors for developing bladder cancer.
Painless blood in the urine, or hematuria, is the most common sign of bladder cancer. Additionally, urinary frequency or urgency can be symptoms of bladder cancer, but are more often caused by other conditions.
If you experience blood in the urine, or if you have abnormal findings concerning for bladder cancer, often your doctor will perform an evaluation to confirm or rule-out bladder cancer. These tests can vary, but may include a CT scan to evaluate the upper urinary tract, a special urine study to look for cancerous cells (urine cytology), and using a small camera passed through the urethra to see the lining of the bladder (cystoscopy).
Various procedures are used to diagnose and treat bladder cancer. These can range from procedures to evaluate the bladder and see if cancer is present to complete removal of the bladder.
Cystoscopy is a medical procedure that allows your doctor to inspect the urethra and bladder. During the procedure, your doctor will insert a small scope into your urethra, the tube connected to the bladder. The scope acts as a telescope to examine the inside of your urethra and bladder. Sometimes this scope may have a camera attached allowing the procedure to be displayed on a screen.
Immediately prior and during the procedure, a lubricating and numbing jelly is often used to allow easy passage of the scope.
Typically, a cystoscopy takes 1-5 minutes to complete depending on the reason for the examination.
Transurethral Resection of Bladder Tumor (TURBT)
TURBT is a procedure where a small scope is used to shave or remove a tumor off the lining of the bladder. The removal of the tumor helps both diagnose and treat potential bladder cancer. Sometimes following TURBT a catheter needs to be left to help the bladder heal, and is often removed after healing has occurred.